Tag Archives: Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/1/2018: Of Boies, Drunks And Maryland…

Welcome, October!

In vaudeville terms, ethically speaking, this is like following a dog act…

1.  More on the strange legal ethics of David Boies. I am currently teaching the David Boies-Harvey Weinstein-New York Times fiasco as a main feature of all of my legal ethics seminars. (You can read the original post here) To its credit, the Times recently did a feature on Boies including his side of the story, which is, I found, not very mitigating. It also had this passage:

For his part, Mr. Weinstein showered Mr. Boies with invitations for opening-night parties and celebrity-studded charity events. The Weinstein Company put one of Mr. Boies’s daughters in the hit 2012 film “Silver Linings Playbook,” and also distributed a movie she produced, “Jane Got a Gun.” Along with the son of one of his law partners, Mr. Boies formed a film production company, which invested $5 million each in two Weinstein films, “Gold” and “The Upside,” both flops.

These entanglements may have colored Mr. Boies’s objectivity and judgment about Mr. Weinstein. But they weren’t, in the legal sense, a conflict of interest. They more closely aligned Mr. Boies’s interest with his client’s, which as far as the bar is concerned is a good thing.

I don’t know what bar the Times is talking about, because a lawyer “aligning” aclient’s interests with a client is not “a good thing,” but a condition that interferes with a lawyer’s independence and objectivity. It creates a personal conflict of interest that not only has to be waived by the client, but which the lawyer must reasonably believe will not affect his representation.

This comments to ABA Model Rule 1.8 make it very clear that significant gifts to clients (in this I would include gifts and benefits to family members) are ethically perilous at best:

Gifts to Lawyers

[6] A lawyer may accept a gift from a client, if the transaction meets general standards of fairness. For example, a simple gift such as a present given at a holiday or as a token of appreciation is permitted. If a client offers the lawyer a more substantial gift, paragraph (c) does not prohibit the lawyer from accepting it, although such a gift may be voidable by the client under the doctrine of undue influence, which treats client gifts as presumptively fraudulent. In any event, due to concerns about overreaching and imposition on clients, a lawyer may not suggest that a substantial gift be made to the lawyer or for the lawyer’s benefit, except where the lawyer is related to the client as set forth in paragraph (c).

Why don’t bars just declare lawyers accepting significant gifts and favors from clients as inherent conflicts of interest that reek of the appearance of impropriety?

The answer is that lawyers like getting gifts from rich clients, and lawyer associations tend not to interfere with things lawyers like to do. Continue reading

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Noonish Ethics Warm-Up. 9/27/18: “You’re The Bad Guys,” Cont.

Hi!

1. Unethical in its simplicity. An esteemed commenter insists, “Any witnesses who allege that Kavanaugh assaulted them should be allowed to testify.” This is either naive (incompetent) or intellectually dishonest. The Democratic Party’s stated objective is to delay a confirmation vote until after the Fall election, in the Hail Mary hope that the Senate will flip to them. There should be no question that the party, now thoroughly corrupted by a mindset holding that anything—lies, character assassination, perjury, misrepresentation, defiling of due process—is justified if it will protect abortion rights and its own power, would manipulate such a rule for political benefit, would recruit an endless series of politically motivated accusers if it could accomplish the objective of running out the clock.

The “any witnesses” flaw was amply demonstrated by yesterday’s fiasco. “New Kavanaugh allegations!” my late TV news screamed. By this morning, the entire story had fallen apart, and yet that ridiculous account (an anonymous woman claimed she was assaulted on a boat in Newport by a drunken “Brett” and friend, so an anonymous man beat them up) added to the designed false impression that multiple, verified, credible witnesses were confirming that Brett Kavanaugh is, as that same esteemed commenter has suggested, a serial sexual predator.

A witness whose claims are raised in a timely manner (that is before hearings begin allowing time for investigation and a response from the accused), whose account meets minimum standards of plausibility, whose accusation involves conduct relevant to a nominee’s fitness to serve, and whose story did not occur so long ago that verification or rebuttal is impossible, should be allowed to testify.

Those qualifications eliminate all of Kavanaugh’s accusers, as well as Anita Hill. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/20/2018: Trying To Get All Of The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck—Or Is It The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck?— Debris Cleared So I Can Write About Something Else [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

[Actually, it’s late at night. Somehow today’s original warm-up vanished; not sure how. It’s back now. Sorry for whatever it was...and my apologies for the confusion. Luckily, the comments were preserved.]

1. #MeToo, ethics corrupter. The Kavanaugh hearing fiasco shows that #MeToo, like Black Lives Matter, has become an ethics corrupter. It has handed women the power to destroy men without fairness, proportion or due process, and because power does, in fact, corrupt, the results have been predictable. Since it involves tribal divisions and victim-mongering, Democrats have benefited from the movement, while acceding to making misandry fashionable and acceptable, just as the party embraced Black Lives Matter with its promotion of anti-white racism and the vilification of police.

Once #MeToo started being about partisan political gain rather than recognizing the serious problem of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace and elsewhere, it compromised its objectives and eroded its credibility. If Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser refuses to appear before the Judiciary Committee, her motives and those of her supporters will be in plain sight.

They should be anyway. Were it not for the news media’s near complete abdication of its duty to inform the public without regard for how facts will affect elections, Democrats would already be thoroughly exposed as hypocrites. How in the world can leaders of the Democratic Party demand a futile FBI investigation of a 30-year-old incident at a high school party while the party’s own co-chair, Keith Ellison, has been credibly accused of domestic abuse, a current, provable crime that #MeToo cares about, and he has not been suspended, investigated, or even widely criticized?

#MeToo power is also being used to censor dissent. Ian Buruma, the editor of the New York Times Review of Books has been forced to resign because he approved an essay by a #MeToo-targeted journalist who was eventually acquitted in court. His essay described how public accusations alone, without verification or confirmation, are enough to destroy a mans’s life and livelihood. “There has indeed been enough humiliation for a lifetime,” the author, Jian Ghomeshi wrote. “I cannot just move to another town and reboot with a pseudonym. I’m constantly competing with a villainous version of myself online. This is the power of a contemporary mass shaming.” The #MeToo social media mob was so outraged that it drove Burama to resign.

And he was so good at making sure almost every book review included some Trump-bashing, too! Continue reading

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The Return Of Louis C.K. For Ethics Dummies

Ick.

Reading the news media and entertainment websites, one would think that Louis C.K.’s return to stand-up comedy after nearly a year in exile or rehab or something raises ethics conundrums that would stump Plato, Kant and Mill. It’s not that hard. The fact that everyone, especially those in the entertainment field, are displaying such confusion and angst just tells us something useful about them. They don’t know how to figure out what’s right and wrong.

In case you have forgotten, cult comedy star  Louis C.K. admitted last November at the peak of the #MeToo rush that he had masturbed in front of  at least five women without their consent. Ick. His cable show and other projects were cancelled, and he disappeared from the public eye. Then, last weekend, he returned to the stage at the Comedy Cellar in New York, performed for about 15 minutes, and received a standing ovation.  This apparently alternately shocked or confused people. I’ll make it simple.

Does the comedian have a right to practice his art after the revelation of his disgusting conduct?

Of course he does. He wasn’t sentenced to prison. He has a right to try to make a living at what he does well. In fact, he has a First Amendment right to tell jokes any where others will listen to him.

OK, he technically has a right. But is it right for him to come back like nothing has happened?

What? The man was publicly shamed and humiliated. He can’t come back as if nothing has happened, because everyone knows that something has happened. Nevertheless, his art does not require the public trust. It does not demand good character, or even the absence of a criminal record. Does a great singer sound worse because he was abusive to women? No. Is there a law that says men who are abusive to women should never be able to work again? No, and there shouldn’t be. I wouldn’t hire C.K. to work in an office, because I see no reason to trust him around others. But he’s not a worker, he’s an artist. He never engaged in inappropriate conduct on stage. He can be trusted as an artist,at least when he’s performing solo.

Comedian Michael Ian Black tweeted regarding Louis C.K.that “Will take heat for this, but people have to be allowed to serve their time and move on with their lives.I don’t know if it’s been long enough, or his career will recover, or if people will have him back, but I’m happy to see him try.” For this he apologized,  saying this position was “ultimately, not defensible.” after he was broiled on social media. Should he have apologized? Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce And Awful Human Being: Thomas Frieden’s #MeToo Victim…And Also, “KABOOM!”

Like “Advice Goddess” blogger  Amy Alkon, when I heard that Dr. Thomas Frieden, Obama’s former head of the CDC, had been arrested for sexual assault, I just assumed that he was one more prominent serial predator who has used his power to abuse women in the workplace, and a pretty serious one, if he ended up in cuffs. After all, nobody has arrested Matt Lauer or Charlie Rose.

Then I read the whole story, and my head exploded. But not because of what Frieden had allegedly done.

A 55-year-old woman, so far unidentified in the media (I want that woman’s namecame forward to the police in July and said that Dr. Frieden squeezed her buttocks without her permission nine months earlier, on October 20, 2017.  She told investigators the incident occurred  as she was leaving a gathering at Dr. Frieden’s residence in Brooklyn Heights. She said Dr. Frieden groped her while their spouses weren’t looking, and he later apologized, citing personal problems.. Dr. Frieden says the woman is a long-time friend and acquaintance of more than thirty years.

Got that?  Almost a year earlier, at a party, a male friend squeezed her butt. He apologized. She waited all this time, and then humiliated him professionally and publicly by having him arrested.

How can this conduct possibly be excused, and I mean hers. His conduct was wrong—I have never groped a woman’s ass or any other part of her body without clear consent in my life, indeed I have heard complaints that I don’t grope enough— and it was technically civil battery, but far, far from criminal. Having the man arrested is nothing less than a hateful, cruel, vindictive abuse of him, his family and the justice system.

We are told that this women—I want her name!—is a New York artist who has been a vocal #MeToo activist since the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck started rolling and squishing, and  has been creating artwork related to the movement. She also wrote an article in an online publication describing that single grope, from a friend, at a party, as the moment she was transformed from activist to victim. Ah! Then treating an old friend this way is completely justified!

No, it’s not. She’s not just an ethics dunce, she’s an asshole.  Alkon–who gets the Ethics Alarms Pointer for this one— calls the grope, which is not sexual harassment, not occurring in the workplace or between superior and inferior, and not creating a hostile work environment, Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/23/2018: A Quote Fest!

Good Morning!

1. Now THIS is narcissism! It’s long, but go ahead and read it.  This  was Madonna’s “tribute” to the late Aretha Franklin at the VMAs this week:

Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life. I left Detroit when I was 18. $35 in my pocket. My dream was to make it as a professional dancer.
After years of struggling and being broke, I decided to go to auditions for musical theater. I heard the pay was better. I had no training or dreams of ever becoming a singer, but I went for it. I got cut, and rejected from every audition. Not tall enough. Not blends-in enough, not 12-octave range enough, not pretty enough, not enough, enough. And then, one day, a French disco sensation was looking for back-up singers and dancers for his world tour. I thought, “Why not?” The worst that can happen is I could go back to getting robbed, held at gunpoint and being mistaken for a prostitute in my third floor walk-up that was also a crack house. So I showed up for the audition, and two very large French record producers sat in the empty theater, daring me to be amazing. The dance audition went well. Then they asked if I had sheet music and a song prepared. I panicked. I had overlooked this important part of the audition process. I had to think fast. My next meal was on the line. Fortunately, one of my favorite albums was “Lady Soul” by Aretha Franklin. I blurted out, “You Make Me Feel.” Silence. “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.” Two French guys nodded at me. I said, “You know, by Aretha Franklin.” Again, “Mmmhmm.” They looked over at the pianist. He shook his head. “I don’t need sheet music,” I said, “I know every word. I know the song by heart, I will sing it a cappella.” I could see that they did not take me seriously. And why should they? Some skinny a– white girl is going to come up here and belt out a song by one of the greatest soul singers that ever lived? A cappella? I said, “Bitch, I’m Madonna.”

No, I didn’t. I didn’t say that. Cause I wasn’t Madonna yet. I don’t know who I was. I don’t know what I said. I don’t know what came over me. I walked to the edge of the pitch black stage and I started singing. When I was finished and drenched in nerve sweat. Y’all know what this is, right, nerve sweat? They said, “We will call you one day, and maybe soon.” So weeks went by and no phone call. Finally, the phone rang, and it was one of the producers, saying, (French accent) “We don’t think you are right for this job.” I’m like, “Why are you calling me?” He replied, “We think you have great potentials. You are rough for the edges but there is good rawness. We want to bring you to Paris and make you a star.” We will put you in a studio . . . it sounded good, and I wanted to live in Paris and also I wanted to eat some food. So, that was the beginning of my journey as a singer. I left for Paris.

But I came back a few months later, because I had not earned the luxury life I was living. It felt wrong. They were good people. But I wanted to write my own songs and be a musician, not a puppet. I needed to go back home and learn to play guitar, and that is exactly what I did. And the rest is history.

So, you are probably all wondering why I am telling you this story. There is a connection. Because none of this would have happened, could have happened, without our lady of soul. She led me to where I am today. And I know she influenced so many people in this house tonight, in this room tonight. And I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Long live the queen.

Another anecdote I would like to share: In 1984, this is where the first VMAs were, in this very building. I performed at this show. I sang “Like a Virgin” at the top of a cake. On the way down, I lost a shoe, and then I was rolling on the floor. I tried to make it look like it was part of the choreography, looking for the missing stiletto. And my dress flew up and my butt was exposed, and oh my God, quelle horreur. After the show, my manager said my career was over. LOL.

The fact that Madonna is getting flack for this is almost as funny as the fact that she would think a long monologue about herself qualified as an appropriate tribute to Franklin. This is a manageable mental illness, but it is pathological, and Madonna is an extreme narcissist in a business that produces them in bushels. But didn’t everyone know that? Why, knowing that this woman only sees the world in terms of how it can advance her interests, would anyone entrust  her with giving a tribute to anyone else? That’s rank incompetence.

Narcissists are incapable of ethical reasoning, since ethics requires caring about someone other than yourself.  Madonna’s “tribute” is a valuable window into how such people think. Madonna really thought the nicents thing she could say about Aretha Franklin is that she made a cameo appearance in Madonna’s epic life.

2. Next, a ventriloquist act! Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/21/18: Road Trip Edition

Good Morning!

We’re just about to hit the road and return home, with a 6 hour drive ahead and a car that periodically flashed “TRANS FAIL PROG.” at  us before the engine stops. Gotta get that checked! Thanks for bearing with me during the past few days. Now that I have my little laptop charged, I have less than a n hour of access to the hotel internet. I hate road trips…

1. What exactly are the #MeToo rules? Obviously they are too complicated for me. I’m going to devote a whole post to this soon, but I wouldn’t mind some advance feedback. Pretty clearly, whatever the rules are, they are ripe with double standards. How can the Democrats and feminists justify standing behind DNC co-chair Keith Ellison, for example, who has been credibly accused of domestic violence? How can feminists and scholars still support Avitell Ronell, whose situation I wrote about here? 

It seems pretty clear, does it not, that race, gender, and political orientation change the rules, right? Of course, the King’s Pass is also in play, as it usually is. I wonder how Al Franken feels right now. Will Bill Clinton be “in” again? Is the new standard that women should be believed when they accuse men of sexual assault as long as their alleged abuser is white, Christian or Jewish, or a Republican? It is particularly peculiar that Ellison’s denials are being taken seriously, since his record of candor is shaky at best. Senator Gillibrand, who led the charge to run Franken out of office, hasn’t exhibited any similar indignation regarding Ellison. Why is that?

2. Wait, I thought President Trump was a Nazi…Jakiw Palij, who claimed he was working on a farm and in a factory during World War II when he applied for U.S. citizenship, had that citizenship revoked in 2003 by a federal judge, and he was ordered to be deported a year later. His appeal was denied in 2005. But he stayed..and stayed…. in the United States until now, because, as we know, the Obama Administration didn’t think deporting people who have no business being here should be a major priority, and the Bush administration, as was often the case, wasn’t paying attention. The  problem was, we are told, that no nation would take Palij, even Germany, which has the ethical obligation to be accountable for all Nazis, living and dead. It appears that Germany relented because this President was willing to go to the mat on the principle.

Trump deserves credit for pushing to do what the previous administrations didn’t care enough about to do. He’ won’t get it, except on Fox News, the hacks. Continue reading

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